OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Five of the eight national seeds already have been eliminated from the NCAA baseball tournament. If the upsets continue in super regionals, there’ll be some new faces at the College World Series next week.
The winner between Texas Tech and College of Charleston will make its CWS debut, Maryland will be going for its first trip to Omaha, Nebraska, and you can’t forget about those Owls of first-time NCAA tournament participant Kennesaw State.
Here are 10 topics to consider heading into the best-of-three super regionals, which start Friday:
BIG 12 BOUNTY: While the SEC laments having eight of its record 10 NCAA tournament teams eliminated, the Big 12 is celebrating having Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU and Texas hosting super regionals. Four ACC teams hosted super regionals last year. Before that, no conference had so many host since the tournament went to its current format in 1999.
FOLLOW THE MONEY: Houston coach Todd Whitting said Monday he was certain his team would be a host for its first super regional since 2003. He found out Tuesday that the Cougars couldn’t match Texas’ super-regional bid. Houston and Texas both were No. 2 regional seeds. But the Longhorns have a bigger stadium and, according to the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, guaranteed the NCAA gross revenue of $253,250 for a three-game series. Houston promised $135,787.
STANFORD POWER SURGE: Of Stanford’s 35 home runs, nine were hit in its five regional games. No other team hit more than four. Two of Stanford’s were timely — Wayne Taylor’s pinch-hit, three-run shot that keyed a comeback win over Indiana to force a second championship game, and Tommy Edman’s two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth in the clincher. Vanderbilt, the Cardinal’s opponent, has given up one home run in its last eight games and just 15 for the season.
ALL-ACC MATCHUP: Maryland travels to No. 3 national seed Virginia for the first super regional matching teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terrapins won their only meeting of the season, 7-6 in the conference tournament.
FROGS ON A ROLL: No. 7 national seed TCU goes into its series against Pepperdine on a nation-best, nine-game win streak and with a pitching staff that’s allowed no more than one run in 32 of 60 games. Big 12 pitcher of the year Preston Morrison and fellow all-conference first-teamers Brandon Finnegan and Riley Ferrell lead a staff that’s first nationally with a 2.14 ERA.
TECH TURNAROUND: Texas Tech second-year coach Tim Tadlock has overseen one of the nation’s biggest turnarounds. The Red Raiders, who host College of Charleston, are 43-19 — a 17-win improvement from 2013. They’ve won 14 straight in Lubbock, and their 31 home wins are tied for third most in the nation.
GIVE IT A POKE: After allowing just seven runs in four games in regionals, UC Irvine will be tested by an Oklahoma State team that batted a tournament-best .355 and averaged nine runs a game in its regional. The Cowboys batted .363 (28 of 77) and scored 19 runs in two games against Cal State Fullerton, which went into the tournament with a nation-leading 2.03 ERA. Donnie Walton (.583) and Conor Costello (.500) were the biggest of the Cowboys’ boppers.
CARDINALS’ STRONG ARMS: Louisville starters Kyle Funkhouser, Anthony Kidston and Josh Rogers combined to allow three earned runs in 21 innings (1.28 ERA) with 21 strikeouts in regionals. They’re backed up by a bullpen that has a 2.37 ERA in the last 79 2-3 innings.
WIN RECORD IN SIGHT: If No. 6 national seed Louisiana-Lafayette gets past Mississippi, the Ragin’ Cajuns (57-8) will have a chance to set the record for most wins since the NCAA went to a 56-game regular season in 1992. Florida State won 60 games in 2002. Wichita State’s 73 wins in 87 games in 1982 is the overall record.
KENNESAW BANDWAGON: Kennesaw State never drew more than 879 fans to its 1,200-seat stadium this season. A lot more folks are following the Owls now. Kennesaw State became a full-fledged Division I member in 2009-10, and the school is capitalizing on the unexpected exposure that’s come with the Owls’ run in the tournament. Watch parties have been organized at a suburban Atlanta restaurant, with discounts for folks dressed in black and gold, and the school bookstore has been fielding requests for apparel to mark the occasion.
“People on campus are definitely excited. This is kind of new for us, being on a national stage,” bookstore assistant director Sean Rowland said.
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